From check-in to the gangway, the airport sets the tone for your trip. Whether traveling for business or pleasure, modern advancements in airport services and amenities have exponentially increased in the past few years with high-tech innovation. Nearing an age the Jetsons could barely imagine, today’s cutting-edge airports stand out with features such as integrated iPads, indoor navigation systems, and, of course, plentiful WiFi. Book a flight out of the 10 most high-tech airports in the U.S. for the best modern conveniences of tomorrow, today.
By Zachary Laks
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
As the country’s busiest and largest airport, the Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport delivers a high-tech experience to match its size. Of high importance in the digital age, access to outlets is plentiful and robust in the airport’s gates, primarily led by Delta’s initiative to install free-standing charging stations with multiple electrical outlets and USB ports, averaging a high 8.1 outlets per gate in the airport. The airport also provides more than 200 powered workspaces allowing passengers to recharge on the go. Recent advancements in high-tech marketing incorporate QR codes on advertisements throughout the airport, rewarding customers who scan the codes with special promotions and discounts in the airport’s shops and restaurants.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Atlanta Guide
Minneapolis–St. Paul International Airport
When traveling through Minneapolis–St. Paul International Airport, plan to arrive early enough to enjoy one of the terminal’s 1200 integrated iPads throughout Delta’s Concourse G. Located throughout the terminal and at almost every seat inside the terminal’s nine restaurants, travelers are able to tap and swipe their way through the virtual menu to customize orders that are delivered to their tables or gates in fifteen minutes or less. The iPads also offer entertainment, access to Facebook and Twitter, and the ability to check your email.
WiFi: Free. Premium service that is faster and ad-free is available for $2.95 for 24-hour use.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Minneapolis-St. Paul Guide
Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport
Making great strides in offering a high-tech travel experience, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport partnered with Samsung to enhance many of the airport’s gates. The partnership has spun dozens of charging stations and seven mobile travel lounges, modern and sleek public lounges that offer respite from the chaos of the gate and provide plenty of outlets at all seating stations. When it comes to the frustrations of parking your car, DFW has created a new hassle-free parking facility for Terminal A. Upgrading the structure with sensors and lights above each parking space, red and green signals provide drivers real-time information on unoccupied spaces, dramatically reducing the stress of seeking out an available spot. Continuing to advance in functionality, the smart garage is synced to the airport’s mobile app, giving customers advance information on parking availability.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Dallas-Fort Worth Guide
Chicago O’Hare International Airport
As one of the busiest airports in the country, Chicago O’Hare International Airport has continued to expand its high-tech offerings to meet the demands of its worldly travelers. Partnering with two apps, FlySmart and B4 You Board, O’Hare offers fresh meal delivery to your gate, along with a host of other navigation features, special offers, and flight status updates. Most excitingly, O’Hare is in the works to unveil a new mobile platform to enable travelers to submit their passports and customs declaration information via their smartphones. And perhaps one of the most innovative advancements in airport hygiene, most toilets at O’Hare now feature motorized toilet seat covers that provide a fresh plastic cover after each use.
WiFi: First 20 minutes are free. Additional time is $6.95 for a 24-hour period provided by Boingo.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Chicago Guide
Austin-Bergstrom International Airport
As one of the first airports in the country to feature WiFi back in 2000, the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport has always been on the forefront of tech-forward travel. Arriving in the airport from an international destination could not be simpler, as the airport’s eight Automated Passport Control kiosks and six Global Entry kiosks significantly help in expediting screening. The smart new Automated Passport Control kiosks scan your passport, take your photograph, and provide a series of questions verifying biographic and flight information before issuing a receipt that is brought to a customs officer. Austin-Bergstrom’s “One-Stop” innovation allows international passengers to pick up their checked luggage first so the passengers and luggage can be cleared in one step.
WiFi: 90 minutes are free. Additional time costs $7.95 for a 24-hour period provided by Boingo Unlimited.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Austin Guide
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
Charging the way—literally—to eco-friendly advancements, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport has recently installed 48 electric car charging stations in its parking garage, one of a few exciting new advancements in the Northwest’s hub. When in the airport, load up a tablet or laptop to access the airport’s handy splash page that gives you an estimate on your location along with the nearby eateries and facilities, as well as updates on flights.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Seattle Guide
McCarran International Airport
It’s no gamble flying in or out of Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport, as recent tech-forward advancements have streamlined the airport into a high-tech destination unto itself. Advancing boarding technology, Terminal 3’s new self-boarding podiums allow passengers to scan their boarding pass and enter a secured door without the help of an attendant. Partnering with Google, intuitive navigation throughout the airport and free recharge zones are easily identified on the Google Maps app available on all smartphone devices.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Las Vegas Guide
Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport
In an exciting tech-forward first, Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport has unveiled the country’s first mobile airport tracking system, BlipTrack. Through monitoring travelers’ smartphones and Wi-Fi-equipped devices, BlipTrack is able to identify congested areas and display wait times for security checkpoints, assuaging anxiety of long lines. Big Brother doesn’t overextend its reach, as BlipTrack is not configured to gather data to identify your device, keeping all devices and passengers in the system anonymous. Using the new system, the airport has made great strides in perfecting its service, getting passengers to the gate quicker and more efficiently.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Cincinnati Guide
San Francisco International Airport
Emerging as a leader in state-of-the-art travel advancements, San Francisco International Airport is greatly influenced by its proximity to Silicon Valley. Most recently, the airport installed one of the world’s first indoor airport navigation systems from the company, indoo.rs. Outfitted with 500 beacons in Terminal 2 in its first test phase, each beacon reveals a point of interest through a phone app via Bluetooth technology, helping visually impaired passengers make their way through the airport. Plans to further incorporate the system to all passengers are in the works. The airport has also drawn inspiration from the modern-day, high-tech office, providing an 850-square foot co-working space, #Converge@flySFO, where abundant power outlets, free Wi-Fi, and a floor-to-ceiling erasable white board are free to use for all travelers.
WiFi: Free, with a recent expansion to provide service that extends far enough to be accessed while at the gate and onboard the aircraft.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s San Francisco Guide
Sacramento International Airport
Sacramento International Airport was awarded a LEED Silver Certification for its $1.03 billion Terminal B modernization project completed in 2011. The high-tech green terminal features a long list of efficient heating and cooling advancements including a heat-reflecting cool roof and glass windows that let in light while minimizing heat. Most ingenious in the terminal’s operations is its “common-use gate system,” an open-source gate setup allowing for any airline to operate out of any gate. Passengers flying on any airline have the convenience of using any kiosk in the airport to print boarding passes and check in on their flight options without seeking out a specific airline portal.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Sacramento and the Gold Country Guide